Dyscalculia‎ > ‎Stories‎ > ‎


I was injured in my leg at age 6, spend the end of kindergarten and all of the first grade in hospital. I had osteomyelitis in my right leg.

I was born with 20/400 vision.

I did not get glasses until age 12. I did not know I was Dyslexic until my son was diagnosed at age 15, I was 35. It passes down the female line. My grandson through my daughter also has it.

I can actually hyperventilate in some conditions. Even discussing math concepts puts me in overwhelm.

When I left the hospital at age 6.5, they put me directly into second grade, as I was an early reader. But not having been given even the basic math, I struggled from then on. I used to write any old answer on math tests, just to get it over with.

This did not endear me to the math teachers, but nobody ever realized I just didn’t know. Nor did they ask.

I did learn multiplication through the 10s. If I want to figure out a X 12, for instance, I make it times 10 and add 2. If I want to figure out a tip, I figure 10% and double it. If I want to figure out interest, I figure out 1% and then multiply it! I can take a pulse for 15 seconds, and X 4. Usually, pretty accurate.

I was trained as a scuba diver. My instructor gave us the book learning, as well as the in-water skills. I know that at the surface, we are all surrounded by 14.7 psi, and every 33 feet, we gain another ‘atmosphere’ – and add exactly 14.7 psi for each one. I know that a foot is 3.3 meters, and I can usually figure out depth – 100 atmospheres is 333 feet underwater.

It is not logarithmic, but progressive, all the way to the bottom of the sea. I know a mile is 5,280 ft. Everest is exactly 29,029 ft.

Every time I hear or see a measurement I know, I mentally recite it, so I can keep it. I can figure out some percentages:

¼ is .25, ½ is .50, 3/4ths is .75, and 1.0 divides into 33.1/3.

(Even that expression is I think, slightly off.) Now comes the ultimate irony: I worked as a technical illustrator and drafter for 34 years. My work was very technical and very precise, yet, I had the most accurate drawings in any group. 
Even scaled drawings. I bought a lot of tools to help me figure stuff out. I got very good and very fast. 

But balancing my checkbook is still a nightmare, and I thank God for online banking! It shames me to this day that I am not good at math. 

The final irony? As a lark, I took the test for MENSA. Of course, I didn’t make the cut but came out with a much-improved sense of self-worth. I scored, without math, in the top 6%! I thought, “Well, there went that excuse!” 

Decimal long division floors me. I have no clue where the decimal goes. I cheat at percentages, as I describe above. I forget some numbers in the ‘times’ scale.

Yet, when I visited the Lincoln Memorial with my husband, I turned my back to the gold letters on the marble walls, and recited the entire address, from memory! He was startled. I did learn the preamble to the Constitution and the Declaration.

I would like to take a remedial math class, starting at the second grade, and work up. I recognize the self-made math system might get in the way of formal learning.

Oh, yes, I have the illness known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia. Now called Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. And despite the pain, the worst symptom is short-term memory loss! Grrr!

I’m also a copy editor and proofreader. I drew the mathematical formula for a math textbook, recognized that there should be a Greek letter at a certain point on each drawing, proofread it, and the guy I did that for said: “Boy, you must be quite a mathematician!” I did NOT argue with him! 

I have, like most Dyslexics, one freaky skill. Spelling, language, vocabulary. My reading speed was clocked in high school at 980 wpm. The teacher made me take the test again. I mow through books, even big ones, very quickly. 

I can greet you in about 15 languages, but my Spanish is fractured, at best.

Yet, there is that THING, always lurking, and embarrassing me. Can you help me?